Heart of Darkness

Some pictures from my past few days with Josh (and his Christian Peacemaker Team buddies) in the South Hebron Hills. All the pictures you see are taken on the Palestinian side of the so-called ‘Green Line’.

Have a look at this UN map (2 Megs) to see the area (south of Hebron). The map also gives a good idea of the current restrictions and closures in the West Bank.

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The crossing from Jerusalem into the West Bank (towards Bethlehem). You have to go through two rotating gates, put your bags through an unmanned x-ray machine, scan your hand, and show your documents through the bombproof glass to the Israeli soldiers on duty. The colourful poster on the wall is from the Israeli Ministry of Tourism, and it says: “Peace be with you”.

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Welcome to Hebron, West Bank. Home to several hundred ideological Israeli settlers who frequently attack Palestinians in the area (who number 30,000). These settlers are protected by approx 1,500 Israeli soldiers.

JDL = http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jewish_Defense_League

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World’s Worst Football Pitch? Downtown Hebron. The Israeli flag is flying over Shohada street, which is out of bounds for Palestinian vehicles (and effectively people, unless you want to get attacked).

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Two Palestinian schoolgirls stand at the top-end of Shohada street, in front of concrete blocks to stop vehicles entering.

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Smashed windows of a Palestinian building and an Israeli army post watches over the end of the street.

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An armed settler takes a stroll in Hebron.

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Leaving Hebron to the village of At-Tuwani. Behind our van you can see the Palestinian road (dirt) crossing the settler road (tarmac). Palestinian cars with green number plates are not allowed on settler roads. You need a yellow Israeli numberplate to drive on them.

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The view from At-Tuwani. You can see the Ma’on settlement in the distance. An ‘illegal’ settler outpost (they’re all illegal under international law) is hidden at the top of the green hill on the right.

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Playing football with the boys and girls in At-Tuwani village.

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Waiting with the schoolkids from Tuba who have to walk between the settlement and the outpost to get home. Since CPT activists were attacked while accompanying the children to school, Israel has said that only the Israeli army can now accompany them, the international presence is considered ‘provocative’.

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Soldiers finally show up to escort the kids up the path between the settlement and the outpost.

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off they go.. (outpost up the green hill on the right). Settlers frequently attack the kids, verbally and physically, and the army is often of little help to the kids.

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The mosque in At-Tuwani. It was bulldozed by the Israelis for being built without a permit. After praying in a tent for nearly a year, they rebuilt it, only to have a demolition order reissued on the mosque.

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Walking with Josh to the village of Tuba where the schoolkids live. We have to take a lengthy detour (1 hour) to avoid walking straight past the settlement (which only talkes 15 minutes).

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Meet Omar, a farmer who lives with his 10 kids in a cave in Tuba. He obsessively listens to BBC Arabic from the radio on the right. Omar has to keep the white sacks of animal feed in the cave because settlers have set fire to it in the past.

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Omar’s son Ahmad in the cave in front of the animal feed. Three of his sisters are sleeping in the background.

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Waking up (too early). The view from outside their cave.

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The view across the valley to the settlements.

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Breeding birds. [The hamam above the hammam – one for the Arabists]

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Omar keeps (terrifying) dogs to warn when settlers are approaching. The sheep don’t seem to mind them (unlike me).

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Accompanying Omar on the long route to At-Tuwani so he can go for Friday prayers.

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At least the settlers force us to take the scenic route 🙂

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Behind Omar is a ridge that Palestinian drivers without permits for Israel can take to go find work. So when you hear arguments about The Wall stopping bombers, it’s rubbish; there are plenty of ways to get into Israel for ‘illegal’ Palestinians.

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At least Omar hasn’t lost his smile..

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Helping farmers harvest their barley in the valley below the settlement. The presence of foreigners and their cameras deters settlers from some of their more blatant attacks, according to the Palestinians.

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Palestinian donkeys get a rough ride too..

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A couple of settlers assessing the situation of Palestinian farmers in the valley.

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The Israeli army and settler security arrives to watch over the settlers as they walk provocatively through the farmers and their flocks, asserting their right to be there. Fortunately, no violence ensues.

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Welcome to Umm Al-Kheir, where Bedouins live literally a stone’s throw away from settlers. The roof in the background is the settlement.

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It’s unbelievably close. Not only is the settlement built on the bedouin land, but settlers often throw projectiles at their Bedouin neighbours.

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A Bedouin house next to a new extension to the settlement.

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Bilal points out how the settlement houses have no windows on this side, despite a fantastic view of the valley. “They want to pretend we don’t exist, that they’re not stealing our land”, he said.

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Bilal points to one of his family’s houses which has been marked for demolition because according to Israel it was built without a permit (like the mosque in At-Tuwani). In case you’re wondering, Israel never issues permits for these properties.

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Two of the other houses scheduled for demolition. In the background you can see the settlement houses.

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The fourth house marked for demolition, with more settler houses in the background. Bilal’s grandfather talks of when the settlement started in November 1981. “We’ve tried to reach agreement on sharing the well water. On sharing the land. We want a peaceful agreement but they don’t want any agreement”.

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This apparently used to be a volleyball court… We found out during our visit that the Israeli settlement had sent round a vet who shot two of the bedouins’ dogs. He is threatening to shoot the rest unless they pay for vaccination. The Israeli group I was with (Tayyush) said they might be able to get an animal rights group to help the Bedouin. Animal Rights, not Human Rights.

2 Responses to “Heart of Darkness”

  • The horrible truth.. But I must say I would have loved to be there with you. I’m gonna have to go to Palestine in the future, hopefully to a better situation though.

    Take care mate, talk to you soon!

  • Thanks for the “real” news. Life is a reality and we must observe this realistically and compassionately. A right to live? How simple if domination were absent.

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